By Lauren Shute
Edison Arantes do Nascimentois a world famous “fútbol” star. You probably know him as Pelé.
On Wednesday, Pelé visited the Chelsea Piers Field House in New York to celebrate becoming the latest Famous Fan on the Subway team and to speak to a group of young soccer players.
The native Brazilian spoke to of young soccer players with the help of a translator. He told the kids his story of playing soccer, and he shared some of his thoughts on the game.
He started playing soccer at age nine because of his father’s influence.
“My father was a soccer player,” Pelé said. “When I was around your age, he told me I had talent and a future in fútbol.”
After years of training, Pelé went on to join the Brazilian national team as a teenager. He quickly became a celebrated star, playing 22 years and winning three World Cup championships for Brazil. He holds the record for career goals with 1,283 and was named a FIFA Player of the Century. (He shared the award with Diego Maradona.)
But Pelé was quick to say that he could only have accomplished everything he has by playing with and as a team.
“The most important thing in fútbol is that you respect each other as players and people,” Pelé said. “In life, being united is very important. You won’t be successful be yourself – you need to rely on your teammates.”
After Pelé spoke, young soccer players in attendance had the chance to ask the legend questions.
One wondered what Pelé thought was his most memorable goal.
“Well, I had a lot of memorable moments,” he said with a laugh. “My most memorable goal is probably the first goal I scored in the first World Cup against Sweden, but I definitely had a lot of moments.”
Another young player asked what Pelé’s favorite sport was besides soccer.
“I don’t think it is a professional sport, but fishing is my pastime,” he said. The soccer legend also used to dabble in basketball.
Someone even asked what his favorite Subway sandwich was. Tuna, of course!
Ten-year-old Ramon S. was the only kid to ask Pelé a question in Spanish without the help of a translator. Ramon asked Pelé what his favorite team to play on was. Pelé said Brazil, and then the Spanish national team.
Pelé has been one of Ramon’s favorite players since he started playing soccer.
“A lot of people think soccer players are good because of how tall they are of their skin color,” Ramon said. “But Pelé proved it doesn’t matter how tall you are or what skin color you are. He was just one of the best ever.”
Judging by how loudly the kids cheered, they were pretty excited to meet Pelé. And they weren’t alone. Their coaches were also ecstatic to meet the legendary athlete – not only because he is their hero, but because Pelé sets a good example for young players.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, being able to see Pelé without struggle, without paying,” Ayo Obisesen, the director of youth soccer programs at Chelsea Fields said. “The advice he was giving was great. I think he loved being able to tell the kids his story of when he was 9 years old.”
Photo: Dante A. Ciampaglia